Old 05-10-2004, 01:41 PM
House of Sand and Fog

I’m not a fan of Shakespeare. To me, his stories aren’t particularly moving, though to be fair they’re meant to be seen, not read. He wrote plays as the intended medium. I myself have only read them. But I imagine that if indeed his works are all they’re made up to be, if seen on stage, their emotion and downward decays into total loss and despair would be comparable to House of Sand and Fog.
To put it simply, this movie is a Shakespearian tragedy.

Kathy has a problem. She’s been evicted from her house because she’s failed to pay a tax . . . that she never should have been charged in the first place. So her house is put up for auction and immediately bought by a former colonel from Iran named Behrani, who’s seeking to profit. Behrani is “playing” the house, immediately striking a deal to sell it for four times what he paid and ensure a lucrative future for his family. And when legal efforts fail Kathy, she turns to a sympathetic cop named Lester who’s not only willing to step over any and all legal boundaries to get himself a fresh start, but also wants out of a loveless marriage.

Jennifer Connelly (Kathy) does what she does best: act. The complaints of her chronic crying are moot. Every role she’s in demands tears, which Connelly can deliver in spades. Great performance. Amazingly enough, Ben Kingsley (Behrani) manages to outperform Connelly. I was stunned. The man can convey more emotions with his eyes alone than most actors can with their entire bodies. Ron Eldard (Lester) manages to keep in sight of his co-starts, despite the fact that he’s still behind a good deal. Nothing memorable, but he doesn’t embarrass.
The lead performances are the main reason to see this film. They carry the picture . . .
. . . with the exception of the young man who plays Behrani's son. The actor is terrible. His presence alone ruins some scenes, and is one of the culprits for keeping this movie from a perfect score.

Vadim Perelman lets the San Fran locales set the mood: rolling fog, tranquil environments, orange sunsets . . . the movie was a visual joy to behold. In House of Sand and Fog the director doesn’t necessarily jump right in and try to bring out emotions--he’s on the sidelines, just trying to move the picture from point A to point B. Perelman does this easily.

Overly-emotional violin waling accompanies the average score. That’s my kind of thing though, so I obviously fell right for it. No tracks won’t blow your socks off, but they contain enough subtlety to quietly aide any emotion in the scene.

Like I said, House of Sand and Fog is a Shakespearian tragedy. The first two-thirds of the movie give us an enticing plot of opposing wills, showing us two different characters (Behrani and Kathy) who clash. It’s very thrilling and never dull. But whether you like it or not the film goes a separate route in the last act, throwing us almost unbearable melodrama. Don’t get me wrong--the entire movie is melodramatic, but wonderfully so. The end might, for some of you, cross the line between comfortable exaggeration and pass into ridiculous.
For me, it didn’t, so consequently I won’t rate that as a flaw.

What does hurt his movie is the lengths one of the characters' goes. It’s uncomfortably over reactive, and turns an interest character into nothing more than a cog to turn the plot.

In the movie’s favor it manages to take a pretty mundane situation (an eviction) and twist it into something truly destructive in a fairly realistic manor. Because of that we’re right beside the characters, never scoffing off their dilemmas, thinking them unlikely.
Also, this expertly pulls at the ol’ heartstrings. The outcome of the story is rather shocking, and although some might raise their eyebrows a bit, no one will laugh at it. And that’s the most important thing--it’s taken seriously. And it wants to be.

What’s interesting about House of Sand and Fog is that it isn’t overrated . . . or underrated. The critics adored it, and obviously it wasn’t a mainstream success. But it wasn’t meant to be. I don’t doubt that anyone who’s forced to sit through this movie will be moved, but it’s simply not the right concoction to entice someone looking to waste a few hours and watch some explosions. So this movie is appreciated just as it should be, flaws and all.

Some of, if not the, best performances of the year (with one exception), great direction, expectable score, wrenching emotions, and not a dry eye in the house make this Shakespearian tragedy, well . . . Shakespearian.

9/10--an exceptional piece of drama



28 Days Later : 7/10
8mm : 9/10
Alien : 6/10
Audition : 7/10
August Underground : 5/10
Battle Royale : 8/10
Cannibal Holocaust : 9/10
Dawn of the Dead : 5/10
Day of the Dead: 8/10
The Dead Zone : 7/10
Donnie Darko : 10/10
The Eye : 7/10
Elephant : 6/10
Freaky Friday : 8/10
Ginger Snaps : 7/10
Hardcore : 6/10
Hellboy : 6/10
House of 1000 Corpses : 4/10
House of Sand and Fog : 9/10
Hulk : 10/10
Irreversible : 8/10
Kill Bill Volume 1 : 8/10
Kung Pow! Enter the Fist : 7/10
Last House on the Left: 3/10
May : 10/10
Memento : 8/10
Mulholland Drive : 7/10
Near Dark : 6/10
One Hour Photo : 9/10
Perfect Blue: 9/10
Requiem For a Dream : 8/10
Se7en : 9/10
Terminator 2: Judgment Day : 10/10
Thesis : 6/10
Underworld : 7/10
Willard : 8/10

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 5) : A
Neon Genesis Evangelion - Perfect Collection : B-
End of Evangelion : A-

Stephen King's IT : 5/5 stars

Last edited by C-Desecration-; 09-20-2004 at 04:57 PM..
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Old 05-10-2004, 03:36 PM
I agree with much of what he said, aswell as the rating... so I wont go over it all again. The acting really stands out in this movie, its just amazing. As said above, it doesnt get dull, its always intriguing (sp?). Anyway, great acting, great plot, great everything.
Same grade...

House Of Sand And Fog - 9/10

Changing Lanes - 7/10
The Haunting Of Hill House - 6/10
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Old 05-10-2004, 07:15 PM


I thought this was a mean spirited movie. All the characters were evil, I didn't like one of them. The movie starts good and then goes into a totally unexpected direction that feels out of place. The acting is not that amazing, Jenifer Connelly's job is not hard, all she had to do was cry, Ben Kinglsey was good but over the top in some scenes, and Shohreh Aghdashloo wasn't very impressive, that Oscar nomination wasn't deserved. And Ron Eldard was just terrible, he was so bad that he almost ruined the entire movie. I was expecting much more from this. A big dissapointment.

5/10 or C
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Old 05-11-2004, 07:06 PM
I recently added this to my DVD collection for several reasons:

1). Ben Kingsley. The man is one of my favorite alive today.
2). Jennifer Connelly. Not only is she gourgeous, but she's got some serious acting skills.

There's more to it than that, though. Sure, it's flawed, but I enjoyed it's performances most of all. That's probably the big reason why I bought it. I could have done without the Ron Eldard character, but to his credit, he wasn't very well written in.
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